Care and order of our liturgical items
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal explains, “The following also exercise(s) a liturgical function: The sacristan, who carefully arranges the liturgical books, the vestments, and other things necessary in the celebration of the Mass” (No. 105). A sacristan is an officer charged with care of the sacristy, the church, and their contents.
It is an essential service in the parish as it helps priests focus on the ministerial aspect of their priesthood. The sacristan keeps the liturgical items for Mass in order.
In ancient times, many duties of the sacrist were performed by the doorkeepers (ostiarii), and later by the treasurers and mansionarii. The Decretals of Gregory IX speak of the sacristan as if he had an honorable office attached to a certain benefice, and say that his duty was to care for the sacred vessels, vestments, lights, etc. Nowadays the sacristan is elected or appointed. The Cæremoniale Episcoporum prescribed that in cathedral and collegiate churches the sacristan should be a priest, and describes his duties in regard to the sacristy, the Blessed Eucharist, the baptismal font, the holy oils, the sacred relics, the decoration of the church for the different seasons and feasts, the preparation of what is necessary for the various ceremonies, the pregustation in pontifical Mass, the ringing of the church bells, the preservation of order in the church, and the distribution of Masses; finally it suggests that one or two canons be appointed each year to supervise the work of the sacrist and his assistants.
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